An estimated 1,182 hectares of forest lands were destroyed by fire as of February 29, a big number are recorded in
Benguet, according to Bureau of Fire Protection -Cordillera (BFP-Cordillera). Officials said the ongoing forest fires on the mountains of Benguet become increasingly a concern, not only for environmentalists and the government, but also for nearby residents whose health and safety are affected.

As this developed, , affected residents who experienced the effects of the forest fires are calling town officials as well as concerned agencies to implement more resilient warning systems and evacuation procedures. Among the municipalities widely affected by forest fires in Benguet are parts of Itogon, Bokod, Tuba and Kabayan. Health officials advised elderly citizens, parents, and individuals with lung or heart conditions to exercise caution and seek medical attention when needed.

Authorities said fires generate haze can potentially pose health dangers. The inhalation of smoke from forest fires exposes individuals to toxic pollutants that can penetrate deep into the respiratory system, and worsen existing respiratory conditions. The blaze in Basa, Camp 4, Tuba, Benguet, resulted in the loss of some livestock.And the
Northern Blossom Flower Farm in Atok is closed due to the increasing smog, hovering the mountain ranges.

Affected residents expressed frustration over the lack of timely and accurate information about approaching fires, citing instances where they were caught off guard and left confused on what they should do. Eliezer Ramirez, a resident of Ongasan, Loakan, said that it’s scary not knowing if they need to evacuate or not. Ramirez together with other residents appealed to town officials install warning systems.

Despite the numerous fire incidents, the BFP reported no injuries or fatalities. Although evacuations have not been implemented, residents are reminded to remain vigilant and evacuate promptly if the fire intensifies. In light of these concerns, communities and the government are redoubling their efforts to enhance wildfire preparedness and mitigation measures. Personnel in charge of the fire suppressions continue to battle against wildfires in Benguet.

Difficulties in extinguishing the wild fires are due to the rough terrains of the mountains that are inaccessible to fire trucks, causing the firefighters to hike up the affected areas and deploy Heli Buckets to help with the fire suppression.

Charisse Kate Ricardo/UB-Intern

Amianan Balita Ngayon